Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making weight in the US military

I just read an Army Times article (in USA Today) about making weight, in order to make the stay-in-service weight standards, in the US military.

Study: Soldiers use extreme methods to meet military weight rules

In short - soldiers trying to reach the Army weight standards are using liposuction, extreme diets, diet pills, and pre-weigh-in starvation to avoid discharge for failure to meet standards.

What's interesting is that if you don't make weight, they'll "tape" you - use a tape measure calculation to estimate body fat percentage. One soldier who regularly chose that method wrote an article about weight training in the military over on Starting Strength. That article, by the way, not only describes the "tape test" but also the weight/body fat standards in great detail.

These standards - especially the body fat standards - are not crazy. What is, is the fact that soldiers are using such extreme methods to pass the test, that it works, and that getting taped is clearly considered defacto failure even though the body fat standards aren't that high. A 21-27 year old male's max body fat is 22%; a female of the same age has a maximum of 32%. Neither is crazy; they're probably within the range of doable by many of the soldiers not making the strict weight standard. But it's easier to avoid taking that chance and just starving down.

As someone who makes weight for competition, I recognize some of the methods. But it seems crazy . . . do you really want soldiers who make a strict weight standard by starvation? Do you want them to have to? Shouldn't the body fat percentage be the more important standard than weight?

Nonetheless, it's clear that scale weight is still the end-all be-all of the public's and government's standards of health.

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